Charity CEO reflects on first six months of project helping young people with disabilities

The CEO of a charity leading a project to help young people with disabilities fulfil their ambitions has reflected on the first six months since launching the service.

Twyford-based Building For The Future Plus (BFTFP) was first launched at the end of June.

The project is an arm of charity Building For The Future (BFTF), which was set up in 2007 by a group of parents with disabled children, who had a ‘collective ambition’ to open a community centre where their children and their families were ‘prioritised, welcomed, accepted, valued and celebrated’.

In 2014, the charity opened its Wokingham-based community centre Our House, which welcomes youngsters with disabilities and their families from around the local area, including Maidenhead.

Its latest project Building For The Future Plus (BFTFP) extends the service to young school and college leavers with disabilities, enabling them to work towards fulfilling their ambitions.

The project sources ‘life fulfilling’ opportunities for them, ranging from work experience to finding social opportunities.

Discussing the start of the project, CEO Jane Holmes said that in the run up to lockdown the charity was in talks about obtaining a piece of land to open a ‘bigger and better’ centre and open a provision for young adults with disabilities.

Although the start of the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to these plans, Jane said the lockdown gave everyone a ‘taste of what its like to be a disabled young adult’ who has left school.

She said: “They go home, they have to stay at home. They can’t see their friends, they can’t go to work, that’s life. So I thought ‘well now we know how it feels, how can we get some support to these young people quickly?’

“We can still launch the service, we can’t do it on quite the scale that we had hoped, but we can start the service.”

Reflecting on the first six months of the project, Jane said that it had been a ‘very challenging time’ in terms of fundraising over the summer because the charity has not been able to run its usual events for almost two years – including a fundraising ball, which was planned for May 2020, but has had to be postponed four times.

The team have not let this hold them back, and have made ‘a lot of progress’, spending the time putting the framework into place and working hard on fundraising. They are now able to start launching their services.

Jane explained that BFTFP is led by the young people themselves and added that many have expressed an interest in the expressive arts and sports, such as football, Boccia, and wheelchair basketball.

The expressive arts arm is set to be launched at the end of January depending on COVID-19 restrictions, and will feature ‘immersive workshops’ for young people with disabilities, all the way through to structured performance with rehearsals and set design.

BFTFP is also focusing on its work experience arm, as well as its social groups, the first of which is due to be launched at the end of January.

Jane said the social side, which will take place monthly, will see ‘mainstream young people’ of around the same age spend time with youngsters from BFTFP, to socialise and make friends.

She added that they are also working on and in talks with sports organisations about the sports arm of the project.

Jane added the sports side is ‘really important’, because the closure of SportsAble has left a ‘real hole in young people’s lives’ and although the project can’t ‘entirely close that gap’, it can ‘plug some of those holes.’

Jane is keen to hear from anybody who is able to give young people with disabilities an opportunity to coach and is also seeking individuals of school leavers age, sixth formers or university students – who are able to go to pubs to socialise at the monthly groups.

For more information and to get involved contact Jane at: jane@bftf.org.uk or visit: /www.bftf.org.uk

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